Even before lockdown’s legacy, our town and its centre faces challenges. Among these are large developments that will shape the future of our town, either for good or bad. But do we know what they might look like? What mass, height and cladding choices are there, for example? How might residents better see what is going on?
Following its recent call for bold action on town centre transport, Guildford Vision Group (GVG) believes the imminent redevelopment of North Street should trigger a comprehensive review of Guildford’s bus services.
Planning starts for North Street – St Edward a joint venture of Berkley Homes and the site owners M&G have started a process, via a request for a ‘Scoping Opinion’, to obtain planning permission for North Street. Bill Stokoe has commented on this application
North Street – What is going on in Guildford Planning?
Today we learnt that Berkeley Homes has jump started the North Street planning process by requesting a ‘scoping opinion’ from the council relating to the future Environmental Impact Assessment that will be required when a full application is made.
To learn that North St is underway is great news. The site has lain fallow for far too long. GVG has discussed the site with Berkeley Homes on a regular basis over the past few years and is generally supportive of the latter’s consultation process.
But the scandal is that Guildford Borough Council Planning Department is yet to produce a design brief for the site. No proposals have yet been published so far.
Thus it is the developer who is making the running, asking for an opinion in relation to up to 850 homes. That almost certainly means well over 10 storeys, the unfortunate precedent set by the approved Solum development at the railway station. This is way beyond the expectations for the North Street site set out in the new, unloved Local Plan.
To compound the scandal, we have yet to hear of any real progress with a brief for a town centre masterplanner. The full council passed the motion in July for a town centre masterplan to be produced and a masterplanner to be engaged.
What is going on? Why the delay? Is the council, both key councillors and officers, hoping the masterplan initiative will somehow fade away?
It does point the finger at the Planning Department and those charged with the regeneration of our town. Are the officers getting the right direction from councillors? Are councillors adequately monitoring how officers prioritise their work when it comes to the vital needs of the town centre? Is the Planning Department adequately staffed?
Yesterday another application was lodged for the Casino site. This is a key site in the centre of town. Yet where is the guiding brief for this development as well?Both these developments should be assessed against an overarching town centre masterplan, supported by effective planning policies hanging off the Local Plan. In the latter respect the council is clearly playing catch-up; witness the recent rushed Views SPD. Unless the council gets its act together sadly we are going to remain on the back foot when it comes to making our town centre fit for purpose. This is especially so in respect of crucial infrastructure such as the road layout, buses and, not least, sewers. Together, Solum and North Street are looking at over 1200 homes. And this is before the impact of the 14,000 new homes in prospect around the fringes of our town.
Surely the time has come for determined leadership for the town centre?
In a report commissioned by Guildford Vision Group (GVG), experts at local transport consultancy Motion have concluded that the town centre traffic layout proposed by GVG would have significant benefits.
Thanks to the new East/West traffic corridor over the river and railway put forward by GVG, the aggregate number of junctions encountered by vehicle movements routeing across the town centre falls by 40% to 93 from the 156 encountered involving the current gyratory.
The report also concludes that the new corridor and associated routeing ‘can deliver major environmental, safety and transport benefits as well as adding considerable resilience to the system’.
As the latest public consultation on the Local Plan comes to an end, Motion also points out that the creation of a Sustainable Movement Corridor (SMC) is a key part of the spatial vision for the borough, as set out in the submission Local Plan, and that the GVG masterplan assists in its delivery.
The GVG plan significantly aids the delivery of key SMC elements by substantially improving the town centre for pedestrians, cyclists and buses, whilst making car journeys easier and separating modes to greatly facilitate modal shift.
“We’re delighted to receive this confirmation of the validity of our proposals for town centre traffic, especially in relation to our proposed crossing,‘ says John Rigg, chairman of GVG. ‘The crossing is the great enabler. It frees up riverside and other space for pedestrianisation. Bridge Street becomes a car-free route and remains the natural desire line for pedestrians to and from the station into town. Cyclists get dedicated paths. It enables creation of great public realm, making Guildford an even more attractive place to visit, to relax in, and to live and work in. Our plan is a win-win all round.”
GVG has included the Motion report as part of its submission under the latest Local Plan consultation which ended at noon on Tuesday 23 October.
Guildford, Wednesday 31 October 2018: The Guildford Society (GSoc) and Guildford Vision Group (GVG) want the reopened public hearing into the Local Plan to consider the council’s proposed new town centre policy wording, not just the housing numbers. Both resident groups fully support the reopening of the Local Plan hearing to consider new housing numbers in the light of revised, lower ONS projections. Examining inspector Jonathan Bore has asked the council to propose dates for another hearing session.
GSoc AND GVG are both keen, however, to see any new hearing encompass a discussion on Policy S3, following their submissions under the public consultation just closed. This Local Plan is about land use allocation – where development should take place. The policy, covering the town centre, is therefore inextricably linked to both the housing number and housing location issues.
Both groups are unhappy with the wording and scope of Policy S3. They suggest S3 and related policies are currently inadequate and need meaningful commitments to provide an effective framework for development. Both groups have lobbied for the town centre to accommodate much more housing, thus freeing up one or more Green Belt sites currently in the frame for housing development. Town centre homes represent more sustainable development than congestion-creating homes in the Green Belt dependent on major A3 improvements as yet to be scheduled, and acknowledged by GBC to be outside its control. Town centre homes would be good for the town’s economy but would again focus attention on the centre’s inadequate infrastructure.
GVG and GSoc say regeneration of the town centre must be masterplanned in a holistic way to address failings in the infrastructure (transport, flood prevention, public realm/facilities etc). A high quality, functioning town centre with a proper balance of housing, commercial and retail space, is not achievable otherwise. Policy S3 should designate the whole of the town centre as a strategic site – or at least the regeneration area identified in the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy – delivering homes, retail and commercial space. Such development could then come with the same obligations the council wishes to impose on private developers of the strategic green belt sites.
Policy S3, as currently written, allows for a piecemeal ad-hoc approach which will never deliver the infrastructure upgrade the town needs. The emerging impact of ad-hoc planning can already be seen, with opportunistic developments of nine storeys or more – up to fourteen – either approved or under application.
Both groups have also complained at the poor response from the council regarding consultation with key stakeholders on the important issue of the town centre. As an example, GVG and GSOC submitted a Draft Statement of Common Ground to the council as part of the hearing process. It was never acknowledged by the council.
We are championing quality in town centre development.
We have published our 2015 manifesto.
We call on all Guildford Borough prospective councillor candidates in May 2015 to firmly pledge to give the town centre back to people through the masterplan.
Network Rail has published its draft consultation document – Wessex: Route study.
Guildford Vision Group has issued its vision document to begin a discussion about what Guildford could be like in the future:
Guildford on the Way – A Vision for Guildford in 2030 and beyond To be read in conjunction with Annex Document :
The form below is provided so that everyone can have a say. Please send us a post card from the future to tell us what the future looks like through your eyes.
We will enter your text into our post card template and add it to a collection of post cards on our site.
Invitation to the Community of Guildford to come and give us your views on 29th September and meet Urban Master Planners, Allies & Morrison
There is a desparate need for a solution that goes some way to weaning Guildford off the car and into using alternative transport solutions! I moved here from inner London 18 months ago and my bike has not left the shed. Provision for cyclists is dire, likewise sensible bus routes (I live in Stoughton). I grew up in Guildford 30 years ago and I was frankly shocked when I moved back about how little had changed in relation to these types of issue. Nevertheless I feel a strong association with the town and want the best for it.
Ed Milnes of GU2
The North Street Development Brief and the Interim Town Centre Framework are both due to be adopted by the GBC Executive on 6 September.
Guildford Vision Group strongly believes that neither of these should be adopted before a full study of the traffic implications is undertaken – and the results fed back into the documents.
A full review of Guildford’s out-dated transportation infrastructure is clearly necessary. Guildford Borough Council now appear to be convinced of this too, but they still don’t want to admit that IT NEEDS TO BE DONE FIRST!
With regard to the proposed Waitrose, the developments proposed at the main railway station should also be geared towards public transport users (and walkers) so that there shouldn’ t be a problem with extra overload of the gyratory. Housing should be for non-car-drivers, or at least non-car-owners, but perhaps with a small pool of cars (e.g. “Streetcar”) for occasional use. The hotel should be aimed at people ariving by train; on my train holiday travels around Europe (including the UK) it’s so nice to be able to get out of a train and find a hotel for the night within sight of the station. There should be offices geared to rail (and bus) commuters.
GVG members were delighted to welcome Councillor James Palmer, Lead Councillor for Transportation and for the Town Centre, to our regular Friday meeting on 24 August. In spite of GVG having extended regular and on-going invitations to our meetings, this was the first time that one of the Councillorshad attended.
Cllr Palmer was interested to hear GVG views. He had not been in post for long, but wanted to assure GVG that GBG recognised that the original Draft Master Plan had been inadequate.
According to Cllr Palmer, GBC wants a properous and lively Guildford, preserving the historic character, culture, business etc – not just retail. However, the North Street Development Brief would introduce an additional 60,000 sq m of retail space!
Cllr Palmer wanted to reassure GVG that GBC was trying to bring forward the transportation study, but that planning decisions could not be put on hold while such studies were on-going. They had to be done in parallel. GVG urged that, if this were the case, then GBC needed to ‘PRESERVE OPTIONS’ so that opportunities, such as the possibility of a new river or railway crossing, were not lost for good.
GVG also suggested that at least some of the sites could be designated as not available for development until the infrastructure plan was in place.
GVG members are not against development. We are totally in favour of sustainable development based on a proper Master Plan. Without this, it would be virtually impossible for the town to grow its economy. Right now, corporate organisations won’t move their headquarters here because there is too little affordable housing, and the traffic is so bad.
We hope that the meeting on 24 August was just the start of a meaningful on-going dialogue with the Council. And of greater transparency from GBC.
As soon as we knew when the Interim Town Centre Framework would appear on the GBC website, GVG sent out an open invitation to a meeting on 28 August. This would be an opportunity for all to find out in what ways the ITCF differed from the original document, the Draft Town Centre Master Plan.
We were pleased to welcome over 150 residents, including almost a dozen GBC Councillors and Guildford’s MP to the meeting. GVG members kicked off proceedings by talking those present through the ITCF. The floor was then opened for all to ask questions, make comments etc.
The overall impression from the meeting was that we all love Guildford and want to preserve the things which make it special. On the other hand, we do not want the town to stagnate, or die a slow death, strangled by traffic.
There seemed to be a consensus that a holistic and long term approach was essential. We would be unlikely to achieve a more people friendly environment without looking at a much wider ‘Town Centre’. Only by including the Cathedral, University, Research Park and Hospitals in the Town Centre, can a truly VISIONARY FUTURE be developed for Guildford, integrating new public spaces and green areas and pedestrian and cycle friendly routes with the old and new built environment.
It was good to hear that the Council and Surrey County Council are now looking at traffic issues, but it is still impossible to understand how they can contemplate adopting plans before understanding the traffic implications. It really is putting the cart before the horse.
GVG members are in conversation with a continuously expanding group of stakeholders in the town. Residents, businesses and workers all have an interest in seeing Guildford achieve its potential as a thriving economic hub for the southeast region, without losing its historic charm and attraction as a place to live or visit.
GVG members share this same desire for Guildford’s future. As a group, we come from backgrounds as varied as architecture and chartered surveying to banking and arts management. The one thing which unites us is our wish to see a secure and pleasant future for this lovely town. We have no vested interest beyond that.
We look forward to seeing the development of a professional master plan which will ensure such a future.